There is a traditional story of the Fort Peck Sioux that has been told around campfires for countless generations. See if you can identify several good virtues in this story.
There once was a good chief called Mad Bear and his wife, Gives Away White Horses, who were childless. Gives Away White Horses, affectionately known as White Horse Woman, loved children and often cried when she heard the village children laughing and playing. Every day she prayed to the Great Spirit for a child but remained childless. Mad Bear would try to comfort her, but she became sadder as the seasons passed.
One warm sunny morning, as White Horse Woman was out foraging for food, she saw a little white rabbit. The rabbit was very small and very still. It seemed to be afraid. “Poor little thing, I will take you back to camp and care for you,” she said as she picked it up and cradled it in her arms. When she got to her teepee, she laid it on a soft buffalo hide so it could rest. White Horse Woman thought, How I would love to have a little child as beautiful as you. When Mad Bear returned home, he saw his wife happy and was pleased.
As the days passed, the little white rabbit grew and became friends with all the children in the village. They all loved to play with the little white rabbit.
One day the little white rabbit hopped into White Horse Woman’s teepee and ran around and around before laying still. White Horse Woman smiled but was sad because the Great Spirit still had not answered her and Mad Bear’s prayers for a child. The little white rabbit seemed to sense she was sad and hopped into her lap.
One night as White Horse Woman slept, she dreamt that the little white rabbit was playing with the children, hopping ‘round and ‘round the campfire as the children sang and laughed. Then she saw the prettiest little Indian girl she had ever seen. The little girl whispered, “Mother,” as White Horse Woman awoke.
That morning the children wanted to play with the little white rabbit, but it could not be found. The children looked everywhere but did not find the little white rabbit.
Later that Spring, Mad Bear and the other men went out to hunt. Days later, he returned and found several laughing women gathered around his teepee. “What is all this happiness for?” he asked as he dismounted his horse. White Horse Woman was sitting inside and smiled as he came in. “The Great Spirit has chosen this season to bless us with our child,” she said. Both Mad Bear and White Horse Woman began to laugh and cry. They were very happy.
Several months later, Mad Bear and White Horse Woman had a little baby girl with hair the color of midnight and big brown eyes. White Horse Woman and Mad Bear prayed and gave thanks to the Great Spirit.
Some time later, White Horse Woman took her little girl for a walk by the stream, where she saw a little white rabbit in the grass. She walked slowly towards the little rabbit and said, “Yes, my little friend, the Great Spirit has blessed us with a child.” She held the little child out for the rabbit to see. “See how beautiful she is?” White Horse said.
The rabbit looked up at her as if it understood her words. “Yes,” it seemed to say. “You have been gentle and kind and patient, and the Great Spirit has given you this child.”
As White Horse Woman turned to leave, she said, “Be safe little white rabbit. I will never forget you.” She did not turn around to see if the little white rabbit was still there, but she knew it had heard her just as she knew the Great Spirit had heard her.
“White Horse Woman and White Rabbit,” adapted from the story “White Rabbit” in the book The Turtle Who Went to War and Other Sioux Stories, published by the Montana Historical Society Press in collaboration with the Fort Peck Tribal Library.
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